Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Schools begin transition to online learning

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

After Gov. John Bel Edwards last week extended school closure through April 30, the Lincoln Parish Schools central office targeted today as the point by which they hoped all core classes would be able to deliver online instruction.

School administrators have asked teachers to prepare coursework through online instruction and conferencing software such as Google Classroom, Moodle and Zoom, as well as paper packets to be made available to students who don’t have internet access.

Ruston High School Principal Dan Gressett said many of his school’s classes began online work weeks ago, while more will be getting on board this week.

“Any (Advanced Placement) or dual enrollment classes, those students have been participating since the week after schools closed,” he said. “Some of the other classes were a bit slower to get on it. Early last week I sent a message to all of our teachers at Ruston High that it was now a requirement to try to reach out to all students and see where everybody is as far as technology and internet access.”

Gressett said that access is the biggest barrier to learning for many students during the school closures, which were put in place statewide in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

To that end, the school will provide paper packets today from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the boulevard for students who don’t have internet access. Prepared by individual teachers, the packets cover at least a week’s worth of coursework and average about 30 minutes of daily work per class. Gressett said he plans to continue doing paper packet pickup every Wednesday.

“That’s one of the things we’re fighting: some of our kids just don’t have the means to do online work,” he said. “If a student has internet access and a device, then most of those students have been doing distance learning already. It’s the others we’re trying to reach out to.”

Gressett said the school is also reaching out to families with special education students to determine how they can provide coursework in a way that these students can access it.

“We’re trying to incorporate everybody,” he said.

The school district’s Chief Academic Officer Lisa Bastion said last week that the Louisiana Department of Education had given districts the flexibility to determine the best way to deliver instruction on a school-by-school, class-by-class and even student-by-student basis.

Families are encouraged to stay in regular contact with their teachers and administrators for information on how each school plans to deliver online and paper coursework.

At I.A. Lewis School, Principal Keshia Douglas-Osborne said all the core class teachers — ELA, math, social studies and science — are ready to transition from using Google Classroom to supplement inperson learning, as they had before, to using it to deliver “at-home” learning.

And starting today, paper copies of ELA and math coursework will be available for pickup for students without internet access at any time via a blue box outside the front door. There will also be a dropoff box for completed work to be turned in by April 22.

Douglas-Osborne said core course teachers will also set up regular weekly video conference meetings so students can discuss course content and ask questions. For example, ELA classes will meet every Tuesday at 2 p.m.

“It’s touch-and-go, but we’re doing what we need to do to get these kids where they need to be,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure we fill in the gaps, looking at specific skills they need to know when they walk into the doors of junior high.”

The Department of Education also gave local school districts leeway to start taking grades for online coursework in some form so that students can get credit for spring classes.

Gressett said that while some courses, such as dual enrollment, are already assigning grades, some “logistical problems” must be dealt with before RHS could do so across the board.

“I don’t know if we’re to that point yet, because if you’re going to start giving grades for everything, you’re going to create more problems,” Gressett said. “What do you do with a kid who doesn’t have internet access and may not even have a ride to go pick up paperwork? We’ve got some of those kids.

“So right now what we’re trying to do is provide supplemental work for students to stay on track and give them something to work on.”

Meanwhile, Douglas-Osborne said I.A. Lewis has developed a rubric to grade online work, but it won’t be like the traditional letter-grade system.

“It’s just for students to get feedback on what they turned in,” she said.

She said the school is as ready for the transition to distance learning as it can be in an unprecedented situation.

“My teachers are on board,” she said. “We’re all willing to do whatever we need to. This is outside a lot of teachers’ comfort zones — being on screen, putting your face out there. But I have not had any pushback from any of my teachers; they are ready to go.”